The Australian Pink Floyd Show
Tour: Set The Controls
Date: February 18, 2014
Location: G Live
Last year, in honour of the 40th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon, the world’s best tribute band The Australian Pink Floyd Show performed the album in full and it was quite spectacular. Of course, this year they’re not doing any such thing. Although they are playing a significant number of songs from Dark Side, they’re not in order, which is all wrong. Also, since the first time, I’ve seen Roger waters (that’s 20% of the real Pink Floyd) so seeing these guys again could never match up, right?
Well, the big surprise of the night was that they were actually even better than before. Without constraining themselves to one particular album, they were able to play a bigger variety of songs from more period of the band’s career, and there weren’t as many repeats from the first time as I’d worried. And there was an additional element where the audience could vote, a couple of months prior to the show, for songs they wanted played (from a selection) which I thought was a really great idea that more bands should try.
In fact, they opened with one of the songs I’d voted for: ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, the song Pink Floyd used to open their concerts with years ago. The song is basically made for that purpose, beginning so quietly and building to a crescendo as the title line is sung, and assuming that was my only chance to see it played live, it was good enough that I can handle that. Later on, both ‘Welcome To The Machine’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ were played from the same album, the latter being a repeat but a highly enjoyable one, although the video of the members of the real Pink Floyd that was played in the background was recycled exactly. Plus, this time around the opening guitar part didn’t get fumbled.
Other repeats came from Dark Side of the Moon, including my two favourites ‘Time’ and ‘Us & Them’, and the surprising choice of ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’, which is very difficult to pull off but I was impressed with the performances of the backing singers. (One of them used to be a backing singer for Floyd when they toured in the 90s, which has to help.)
But the best songs of the night were the more unexpected ones. The undisputed highlight was ‘Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun’, an all time favourite of mine in the studio but one that doesn’t always work live, since it’s harder to get the creepy, atmospheric feel of the song – but here they stayed true to the studio version rather than any of the published live ones, and the overall effect was great. That and the music played over the PA before the concert began (clips of songs from ‘Piper’) were the closest we got to Syd Barrett numbers all night, the one major disappointment and flaw in the concert for the second year running.
I was also lucky enough to hear a song from Animals – it wasn’t ‘Sheep’, as I’d been hoping, but it was the funky, danceable ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’, played in full. Coming at the beginning of the second set, the band’s rocking out came as a nice contrast to the quiet concentration they’d been in for most of the first half. We saw this again in some of the heavier Wall cuts, like ‘Young Lust’, and a version of ‘Happiest Days/Brick 2’ that didn’t live up to Waters’ own venomous voice but was nevertheless enjoyable.
This was less of a surprise as I knew it was coming, but it was also good to hear three songs from ‘The Division Bell’ – the post-Waters era gets a lot of hate, but I really like the bluesy call-and-response ‘Keep Talking’, although I was less convinced by the guitar-solo-heavy ‘Coming Back to Life’. I feel like the group should stick to the full band compositions rather than trying to play songs that specifically relate to one particular member, where the style is harder to imitate.
I’ve already mentioned that the Wall songs had the hardest challenge, and none more so than ‘Comfortably Numb’, which has been performed wonderfully so many times that it can’t possibly be beaten. The band played a note-for-note copy of the original, and the guitar solo felt elegant and natural, although the vocals possibly could have been improved.
I managed to find myself a place to stand right near the front, and so the atmosphere in the audience was great, with other people who were clearly huge fans too. After the band left the stage following ‘Comfortably Numb’, everyone was cheering for ‘Run Like Hell’, except for a select few near me who decided to yell for ‘Brain Damage’. I considered shouting out ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast!’ but then worried they would actually play it, which would be a waste of an encore. Not to worry, though. They finished the night with a rousingly energetic ‘Run Like Hell’ that was so intense I managed to forget that Roger’s emotion wasn’t quite there.
Overall, a tribute band to one of the world’s most famous bands is always going to have a difficult task, but there’s a reason the Australian Pink Floyd have such a great reputation. Their love and respect for the music, the most important feature a tribute band can have, is obvious, and they have genuine talent of their own too, as well as a great sense of humour about the whole thing. With that in mind, I’ll end with an anecdote I heard once that I’m 98% sure is not true.
David Gilmour went to see the Australian Pink Floyd years ago and was so impressed that he said they were the best tribute band he’d ever seen. Flattered and wanting to return the compliment, a member of the Aussie Floyd found some tapes of the original Floyd playing, and told them that they were the best Australian Pink Floyd tribute band he’d ever seen.